WENATCHEE – A Wenatchee church could find itself in hot water after a young girl said she felt “forced” to be baptized at a public event on Easter Sunday April 17, 2022 .
iFIBER ONE News’ report on the incident follows a article published by freelance journalist Dominick Bonny of Wenatchee. The family has confirmed that all information in Bonny’s report is true and accurate based on their accounts.
Grace City Church, an evangelical religious establishment located in the Sunnyslope area of Wenatchee, held its “Hometown Easter Jesus Fair” on Sunday.
The 10-year-old girl, whose identity will remain hidden due to her age, will be associated with the pseudonym “Zoe”.
In a taped interview sent to iFIBER ONE News, Zoe says she attended Grace City Church’s Jesus Fair with a friend and her friend’s grandmother.
Her father says he knew his daughter was attending the event and saw something about the baptisms held during the fair, but thought nothing of it. The Jesus Fair was held at the Chelan County Fairgrounds in Cashmere.
After spending some time at the fair, the baptisms had begun. Zoe shared her account of what she went through before her unexpected religious formality. Zoe says one of the preachers on stage asked those who had never been baptized over the loudspeaker to raise their hands.
Zoe raised her hand. The following quote is an excerpt from the interview.
“Julie’s grandmother was right behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, haven’t you been baptized?’ and I said ‘no’ and she said ‘ok well, get up there. You are supposed to be baptized if you have never been baptized. And I was like, ‘Uh, okay,'” Zoe said.
Zoe took the stage and was among the various tanks filled with water. She says she felt uncomfortable about the situation. The church gave her baptismal clothes to change for the submersion, and she changed in a private tent.
“There were a lot of people,” Zoe said. “Holding my hand and talking about how I was a sinner and the reason they were giving me this baptism was so I could be clean and not be a sinner anymore. They were asking me all these questions to know if I’m okay, if uh, Jesus is raining his blood on me today.
After the soak, Zoe says the church had her fill out a contact card that solicited her name, address, email address (was not applicable), phone number, and more. she filled out the card.
After the christening, Zoe got some food from the concession stands and texted her friend and her friend’s mom to pick her up immediately. The original plan was to have that same friend and her mother pick her up later that day. Zoe allegedly threw her Grace City Church clothes in the trash as soon as they arrived at her home near Cashmere.
After Zoe’s father learned of his daughter’s experience, he became concerned.
“I didn’t think it would be forced on him,” he said. “Or make her feel like she was forced to.”
The next day, Zoe’s father went to Grace City Church in an effort to have them remove his daughter’s information from their records.
“My goal was to get them to remove his personal information,” he said. “Because that was a really concerning part of it all for me.”
Zoe’s father failed to find anyone and failed to get a call back from the church after leaving a message for them.
iFIBER ONE News has asked Zoe’s father to clarify his statement about whether his daughter was indeed “forced” to be baptized.
“Not physically, but manipulated into making her feel pressured into it,” he said.
Zoe’s family are seeking legal advice about their daughter’s baptism by the church, which was done without their knowledge and consent.
According to the Legal Advice website, Avvo.comKate Forrest, a family law attorney in Seattle, posted the following answer to the question “Is it illegal to baptize a child without parental consent?” » :
“It’s unfair, since parents have constitutionally protected rights to determine their child’s religious upbringing, and the law presumes that parents who have not been found unfit act in the best interests of their children. …but what can actually be done about it is a little harder to say,” Forrest wrote. “If the person had no parental permission at all to have the child in their care, it could amount to interference with custody or even kidnapping, depending on the relationship and the circumstances, but if the person is a licensed caregiver who has exceeded their authority, it would likely be a civil matter rather than a criminal one. Parents could potentially sue for assault and battery (people generally misunderstand this term to mean some degree of abuse, but it’s really just harmful or offensive touching), but it is hard to say if it would be worth pursuing a case like this with nominal damages, if any,” she added.
“I think the best answer would be prevention. If you are the person who wants to baptize: respect the will of the parents. If you’re the parent: Don’t leave your child with someone who doesn’t respect you,” Forrest concluded.
iFIBER ONE News contacted Grace City Church via email for comment, but did not receive a response.